After more than a decade as an award-winning icon of downtown luxury retailing, the Rangnam complex in Bangkok has undergone a dynamic transformation that once again expresses the aesthetic and commercial power of design.

Nick Taylor, Director of The Design Solution, explains how design is helping King Power to drive the revitalised Rangnam experience.

Nick Taylor, Director of The Design Solution

King Power’s Rangnam downtown complex in Bangkok was travel retail’s star launch of 2006. It went on to win countless awards and has always been a major highlight in The Design Solution portfolio.

After this month’s spectacular Rangnam relaunch event I looked through my iPhone library for images of the 2006 opening – only to realise that the iPhone wasn’t actually launched until a year after Rangnam opened! Clearly, time for an update…

In November 2016, King Power set us the challenge of returning to Rangnam to create a shopping experience that could equal and surpass the very best in one of the most retail-vibrant cities in the world.

Eleven years is a long time in retail design but the opportunity to transform an amazing space that we knew so well was irresistible. Challenge accepted! The designs were completed in May 2017 and work on the new scheme commenced.

Retail reborn – King Power Rangnam

Now renamed King Power Rangnam, the complex comprises three levels of retail and food & beverage linked by a central, oval void. Customers enter on the ground level, passing into a world of luxury fashion boutiques, including Prada, Gucci and Tods. We designed the environment with luxury finishes and a contemporary look and feel synonymous with these world class brands.

Our long relationship with Rangnam meant that we knew the space inside out; and this time we had the power of digital technology to support the design process. For example, the instant sharing of virtual reality designs with the client was a huge boost to the speed and efficiency of the whole design process. As you can see from the images on this page, this combination of experience and technology enabled us to deliver a final project that is remarkably close to the initial designs.

In the centre of the space we designed the 240sq m sunglasses store featuring a visually stunning series of digitised columns. These utilise opulent finishes such as polished marble, polished gold detailing and slick back-painted glass, with a delicate organically formed lighting ‘curtain’ at high level encapsulating the space.

The second level features luxury watches, fashion, and athletic-leisure (‘athleisure’). It has a different feel to the ground floor, albeit with some common detailing. This floor has a world class perfume & cosmetics hall (2,500sq m) followed by an electronics concept store.

In P&C we created a freestanding back wall space to give the brand islands a more distinctive presence, whilst retaining views through the space so customers can appraise the whole offer

Digital encounters

The digital angle was one of the key differences between what was done in 2006 and this design. Hi-resolution bezel-free screens were used, in particular in the perfume & cosmetics hall, to deliver both King Power communications and brand-supplied material.

A ‘mega-screen’ was incorporated into the ceilings over the main customer walkway in the athleisure zone, bringing a sense of energy and dynamic vibrancy to the space. The sunglasses shop has screens built into each of the six columns which parade through the space, with coordinated communications in order to limit the amount of visual noise in what is a premium part of the customer journey. Hologram displays are incorporated throughout the development, creating a real ‘wow’ factor and acting as ‘beacons’ for the categories.

On the third level, customers are presented with a liquor and tobacco store. It has been designed to cater for both tax free sales and those wanting to buy to consume on the premises prior to an arts performance at the renowned Aksra Theatre.

The top floor is a wonderful F&B destination blending an array of authentic local flavours with international options (including El Gaucho, one of the best steakhouses I have ever visited)

The scale and beauty of Rangnam doesn’t overshadow the brands. The materials we used were carefully chosen to complement the product categories and brand profiles and, in order to allow the shops to remain the central hero of the experience, their detailing and finishing is understated and elegant. This delivers a wholly contemporary feel across the entire customer experience.

Rangnam is an easy and comfortable space for the shopper to navigate, not only through the clarity of wayfinding but also through detailing across the space. For example, the floors on levels 1 and 2 feature a combination of honed and polished white marble laid in a herringbone formation. Where the category interfaces with the next, the floor responds by ‘pixelating’ into a different finish gradually, giving shoppers a simple but beautiful and instinctive awareness of the transition from one category to another.

The thresholds to the shops are also bordered with a polished black stone tile which visually connects to the shopfront framework. That is, a black ‘c–section’ forming a frame, with its inner surfaces finished gold with a continuous hidden light source, giving a clean and definitive break between brand shopfronts.

Size isn’t everything

While some might think that the new Rangnam lacks in pure square metres when compared to the enormous scale of Bangkok’s huge and numerous downtown shopping experiences, it has introduced over 40 carefully selected new brands across the categories. It simply leads the sector in the beauty and unique personality it expresses.

Further, one feels this is King Power bringing you a carefully curated collection of the world’s finest brands, which can be shopped with ease from the luxury of generous concourse space.

Architecturally, one of the most stunning aspects is the way the vertical circulation void at the heart of the space allows unfettered views across three levels, showing customers what lies on each level. Any anxiety about moving up through the complex is removed. Lighting plays a vital role in this. A combination of decorative, ambient and focused lighting play off the materials to give an overall ambience of warmth, including sumptuous gold illuminated accents in levels 1 & 2 where the luxury boutiques and watches are located.

If I had to pick out one element of the design that radically transforms Rangnam from 2006 to 2018 it is the wonderful integration of light and digital installations. The advances in digital technology opened up fantastic new opportunities, creating a breathtaking spectacle across the whole space but also driving category interest with amazingly dynamic visuals. This is particularly apparent in the use of the unmissable large-scale hologram ‘category beacons’, enticing shoppers to explore each category, such as the athletic image towering over the sports zone.

Time for change

I said that 11 years is a long time in retail design. Apparently, just four months since its launch, the latest iPhone is already under review for change. As architects, we don’t have the luxury of regularly ‘updating’ a design; we need to get it right first time. Of course, customer behaviour is constantly evolving, as is the role of digital technology and its impact within the customer experience, and can only grow even stronger.

In my mind, that simply makes the quality of design even more important – it must be precisely targeted to create a customer experience that is engaging, memorable, commercially effective and sustainable.

I’m confident that, as in 2006, we have created a stunning retail adventure in downtown Bangkok that has been meticulously designed to last.

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The Design Solution: The food & beverage revolution leads to Rome

A Venetian Grand Design – how design has shaped the most beautiful store in the world

The Design Solution: Virtual Reality – Bringing the design experience to life

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